The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Karel Vredenburg 'The evolution of Design at IBM plus the Future of Design education'

John Carter
January 16, 2023
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Karel Vredenburg 'The evolution of Design at IBM plus the Future of Design education'

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Episode shownotes

I caught up with Karel Vredenburg, Karel is currently IBM Global Vice President, Client Insights and Research and responsible for leading the company’s global team of researchers and the insights they provide to product, services, and executive teams.

Karel joined IBM in 1988 after having done graduate studies, research, and teaching at the University of Toronto. He introduced User-Centered Design at IBM in 1993 and assumed a company-wide role in 1995 leading IBM's community of designers, leading the development of design methods, languages, and technologies, and leading the design of the commercialization of the IBM Watson. In 2013, Karel help found a new IBM Design program together with General Manager of Design, Phil Gilbert, and IBM Fellow, Charlie Hill. Karel personally introduced the new design program which included Enterprise Design Thinking to IBM product development laboratories worldwide and introduced a tailored version of it to IBM consulting services and technology services organizations worldwide from 2014 through 2016. He next focused on the development and activation of Enterprise Design Thinking for client facing professionals worldwide and rolled that to IBM’s top client accounts in 2017 and 2018. He has also conducted workshops with the c-suite and senior executive teams of hundreds of industry leading companies worldwide as well as with startups, scale-ups, and public organizations.

We chat about lots of amazing areas, such as where Design needs to go in the future to be more affective, Design Coaching, Design Education and cover off some of the key insights from the work that Karel and Don Norman have been working towards with the Future of Design Education project. Karel is awesome and I know you will love this conversation -

Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Karel Vredenburg: We hired 3000 designers. We initially didn't hire very many researchers, and then we really turned that on, and now that's my major role is to lead the researchers across the company. And I'm really pushing hard on really seeing that if you only did design, if you only did development, you can probably have about a 10% chance of being successful.

[00:00:19] Karel Vredenburg: That's actually what most of the evidence shows today. If you actually inform that design and that product. With evidence making, evidence based, which is really what I argue that UX research is all about. Then you have a heck while a lot higher success rate. And it's also the case that I'd coined two other terms that I'm really fond of.

[00:00:38] Karel Vredenburg: So one of them is pseudo design. So pseudo design, just like pseudo medicine and, and pseudoscience is basically medicine and science without any evidence, right? You just make. I argue that design without research is actually pseudo design.

[00:00:54] Gerry Scullion: Greetings from an icy cold Dublin folks, and as always, a very warm welcome to this is eight [00:01:00] CD and we welcome everyone to the show and I'm delighted to have you with us for the next 30 or 40 minutes. My name is Jerry s Scalian and I'm a designer. I'm an educator and the host of this is a city based in the wonderful city of Dublin, Ireland.

[00:01:12] Gerry Scullion: There are goal years to have conversations that inspire, inspire you, the practitioner. With the people interested in human-centered design, we really want to help move the dial forward for organizations to become more human-centered in their approach to solving complex business and ultimately societal problems too.

[00:01:27] Gerry Scullion: I caught up with Carl Randberg. Carl is currently IBM Global Vice President of Client Insights and Research and responsible for leading the company's global team of researchers. And the insights they provide to product services and executive teams. Let me tell you a little bit about Carl. Okay. So Carl joined IBM in 1988 after having done graduate studies, research and teaching at the University of Toronto, and he introduced user-centered design at IBM in 1993 and assumed a company-wide role in 1995.

[00:01:56] Gerry Scullion: Leading IBM's community of designers leading the [00:02:00] development of design methods, languages, and technologies, and leading the design of the commercialization of IBM Watson, something we used in the past. Fantastic api. In 2013, Carl helped found a new IBM design program together with the general manager of design at the time, Phil Gilbert and b m fellow Charlie Hill.

[00:02:18] Gerry Scullion: Carl personally introduced the new design program, which included enterprise design thinking to b m product development laboratories worldwide. And introduced a tailored version of it to the IBM consulting services and technology services organizations worldwide from 2014 through to 2016. This is really impressive.

[00:02:35] Gerry Scullion: He next focused on the development and activation of enterprise design thinking for client face and professionals. Worldwide and rolled that into IBM's top client accounts from 2017 to 2018, and he also conducted workshops with the C-suite and senior executives, teams of hundreds of industry leading companies worldwide as well with startups, scale up and public organizations.

[00:02:56] Gerry Scullion: In this conversation, we chat about an awful lot of that stuff that I've just covered [00:03:00]off there, such as where design needs to go in the future to be more effective. We talk about design coaching versus agile coaching. Design education cover off some of the key insights from the work that Carl and Don Norman have.

[00:03:12] Gerry Scullion: Working towards the project that they created about three or four years ago called the Future of Design Education. Carl is totally awesome, okay, and I know you're gonna love this conversation, so hopefully enjoy it if you like what we're doing at this H C D. As always, folks, please help us out leaving review wherever you listen to the podcast.

[00:03:28] Gerry Scullion: It only takes a couple of minutes, but it really helps. Basically other people find the podcast or you can go one better folks and become a patron. You can get an ad free stream of the podcast for as little as one Euro 66 per month or 20 euros per year. Okay? And also get a shout outs to thanks. There are other plans there on the

[00:03:46] Gerry Scullion: Literally all the money goes towards editing, hosting, and maintaining our website, which is now a repository for human-centered design goodness, with over 230 episodes. Anyway, I've rambled on enough. Let's jump into this episode. [00:04:00] Carl, delighted to welcome you to this, A city and the podcast. Um, maybe for our listeners, maybe tell us a little bit about where you're from and what you do.

[00:04:09] Karel Vredenburg: Sure, Jerry, and thanks so much for inviting me. I look forward to having this conversation. Absolutely. So I originated in a. The Netherlands. Um, and my parents actually came to, uh, north America, to Toronto, Canada. That's where I'm still, uh, based now. And my role, uh, at President and is, is Vice President of Global Client Insights and Research at I B M.

[00:04:32] Gerry Scullion: What, what era are you most proud of in, in your IBM

[00:04:36] Karel Vredenburg: career? Really interesting question, Jerry. So, and by the way, I was o only intending to stay at I B M for a year. This was not the career I was intending. So for anybody that's listening that's like unsure about what they're doing, um, yeah, I've just had been incredibly fortunate.

[00:04:52] Karel Vredenburg: This is actually answering your question. I've been able to reinvent myself every time. I've been headhunted a lot. Yeah. [00:05:00] And, and each time the IBM company has supported my desire to do something different. And so I was originally hired to transform the company because at the time IBM was looking to break up into smaller.

[00:05:14] Karel Vredenburg: Companies and the part that I was in in Canada was gonna be its own independent software company. And they said, man, we gotta really up our focus on design and research. So that's what I took on. And then when I did that work, it then led to, um, the top of software, uh, group saying, oh my God, we gotta do this as well.

[00:05:34] Karel Vredenburg: And then the CEO of the whole company said, we gotta do this as well. This was the user center design sort of, uh, phase. I think I'm very proud. period. We really, uh, sort of upped things, but one of the things we didn't do was drive a lot of hiring of designers and researchers, and I really. Attribute that to a guy that came in about 10 years ago, Phil Gilbert.

[00:05:57] Karel Vredenburg: Uh, he was a serial entrepreneur and [00:06:00] he came in and I, I would use the word audacious in terms of the way that he approaches things. And he would say things like, I would say, wow, we need about 200 more, uh, designers. And say, I did, I hear 2000. Uh, and we actually just go down the path of it, and it was evidence-based, but, but that was a really, uh, exciting time as well.

[00:06:20] Karel Vredenburg: So I think the, the user center design days were, were, were really interesting. Um, I like the hardware days when we had the ThinkPad. Uh, we did a lot of work on that. We took the ThinkPad from eight and customer satisfaction to number one in customer satisfaction. And then we sold the company , uh, yeah, to Leno.

[00:06:37] Karel Vredenburg: Lenovo. But yeah, there's been lots of exciting times. I,

[00:06:41] Gerry Scullion: I heard Phil's name mentioned, uh, when I interviewed Doug Powell a number of years ago. Um, and he mentioned it similar story to you, like championing design. And, um, so it's good that those people along the way and, um, and I know, I know Doug's no longer at ibm, but he was a fantastic on the podcast.

[00:06:58] Gerry Scullion: I wanna take you back [00:07:00] to 1988 Okay. Because mm-hmm. , you know, it's in my era as well. Who were the challengers to IBM in 1988? It was Bang Computers. I think it was one wasn.

[00:07:11] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah, I think that, well, yeah, back then, uh, you actually had, you know, green screen mainframe, you know, interfaces. Was, was really it. And, and a color display was really, really fancy.

[00:07:22] Karel Vredenburg: I like. And so, yeah. Uh, and, and, and I harken back to, you know, when I was in an undergraduate and graduate school, I was doing any computer work. It was typically in the early days done with, you know, the, the, the UI was basically the punch card, uh, and, and a, a punch card machine, which, you know, sounds like it's thousands of years ago, but it's not actually that that long because the industry we're in just, you know, evolves, you know, so squi so quickly.

[00:07:49] Karel Vredenburg: So I think in the early days and, and actually the, the work that I did during my PhD program, actually, I, I did a side gig, um, because I was. [00:08:00] I was doing research on information, uh, uh, processing, looking at a affective and cognitive processing of information. And I advertised for a, um, an ra, uh, research assistant.

[00:08:13] Karel Vredenburg: And all I had was male, uh, applicants. I said, this is weird. Like 60% of the university is, is is women. Uh, why do I only have men? So I dug. . It turned out it was doing work with a computer at the time. And so he said, okay, look, let's look into this. And I looked at content analysis of advertising. Yes, it was biased.

[00:08:32] Karel Vredenburg: We looked at the way that that boys and girls in elementary school were interacting with computers and there was like a physical. Moving, you know, girls off of the computer with the, with what the boys were doing. Um, then looked at the UIs and the UIs were awful back then, they were only negative. They only would tell, tell you when you had, you know, when you did something wrong and there was an error message.

[00:08:52] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah, a sound and a, and a, and a notification. So, I did a project where we looked at, okay, how could we change [00:09:00] that? How could we actually change the, the, the design of the interface? And I looked at self-report, uh, uh, measures. I looked at ga, galvanic, skin response, heart rate, and it had an amazing result that the work that I did on the UI ended up basically, Eliminating the anxiety.

[00:09:20] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. That people that had, uh, had ex um, negative reactions to computers at the time. Yeah. So that's kind of what the frame was back then, you know?

[00:09:28] Gerry Scullion: Absolutely. It, it's crazy cuz. When I think back to that era now, I, I wasn't working in that era. Um, I just would assume way back then in, in the late eighties that design and research was still relatively within the interface levels.

[00:09:45] Gerry Scullion: And to have those conversations at the policy level or at the different zoom levels and being able to zoom out and look at the, the anthropology of, of kind of the reasoning of why things were the way they were. It sounds like IBM was quite progressive [00:10:00] in how they accepted research even at that stage.

[00:10:03] Karel Vredenburg: Is that fair to say? No, it is and and in an actual fact, we sort of invented some of the methods actually, yeah. That we, we used back then. So things like, you know, if you look at it, the earliest phase was being enamored with scientific research. So everything was doing usability studies and, and doing time, a task.

[00:10:22] Karel Vredenburg: All that stuff's still done today, but back then it was like the only thing, it was done , it was end of the cycle development, cycle testing, doing all the statistics on it, which are still relevant. , there was just too much of a focus only on doing that academic sort of approach to it. And then we started to move left in the product development cycle, and I brought out, uh, user-centered design based on a book, uh, in 1989 by Don Norman and team.

[00:10:48] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. Um, that was, you know, uh, user system, user-centered, uh, design and I. Brought that around to IBM and really stood, stood back as well and said [00:11:00] we need to design the entire user experience, uh, and actually create a role that had responsibility for that. Um, and we did, you know, early interviews and, uh, we did task analyses and, and the like.

[00:11:13] Karel Vredenburg: Um, so it, it really predated. Current design practices. Uh, yeah. But during that phase, I would say from 88 to like middle 95 ish is around the time when we really windows broadened the aperture.

[00:11:28] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, absolutely. So at that stage, like for, for people listening who are in their twenties and thirties, they've got a glut of information at their fingertips that even when I got into the industry in the mid two thousands, We didn't have, like it was mm-hmm.

[00:11:42] Gerry Scullion: like, I'd gone to my library and I'd try and find and ask for these books and, you know, the bookshops couldn't get them and didn't have websites at that stage. Um, I know yourself and Don Norman were, were probably leading the way. This is pre UX and this is pre mm-hmm. [00:12:00] hci probably even at that point as well.

[00:12:01] Gerry Scullion: So. Who other people or who other people, what other people, um, were, were writing about this at that stage of, of the journey.

[00:12:12] Karel Vredenburg: Can you remember? Yeah. Well, I think with Don, first of all, it was, was a major influence. Yeah. I mean, he, he coined, he coined hci. He actually, uh, created, uh, that, that sort of discipline, you know, in computer science departments.

[00:12:25] Karel Vredenburg: And I think that he also coined, uh, the user experience that term. Uh, and like, so he really was sort of the father of that kinda stuff, which at the time, um, he influenced a lot of my work. Say again? Yeah, bill Ri. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, I'll, I think all of, all of those guys back then, but I, I think the ones that, that really informed, um, my bent has always been on making sure that we do research and design.

[00:12:53] Karel Vredenburg: And I think that, um, and that's only now becoming more, uh, [00:13:00] you know, In vogue, if you will. You know, if, if you think about in the last sort of 15 years, there's been an incredible ascendancy of design. Everybody's been in ibm. We hired 3000 designers. Um, we, and we initially didn't, uh, hire very many researchers and then we really, uh, you know, turned that on.

[00:13:19] Karel Vredenburg: And now that's my major role is to lead the researchers across the company. And I'm really pushing hard on really seeing. Uh, if you only did design, if you only did development, you can probably have about a 10% chance of being successful. That's actually what most of the evidence shows today. If you actually inform that design and that product development with evidence.

[00:13:43] Karel Vredenburg: Making it evidence based, which is really what, uh, I argue that UX research is all about. Then you have a heck by lot higher, uh, success rate. Yeah. And it's also the case that, uh, the I'D coined two other terms that I'm really fond of, so mm-hmm. , uh, and one, one of the, one of them [00:14:00] is pseudo design. So pseudo design, just like pseudo medicine and, and pseudoscience is basically medicine and science without any evidence.

[00:14:07] Karel Vredenburg: Right. You just make it up. I argue that design without research is actually pseudo, uh, design. Yeah. And I think we shouldn't be doing. 100%.

[00:14:16] Gerry Scullion: So we, we, we both agree and I think everyone is probably nodding their head as well. There's, there's very few people who are cynics when it comes to the power of research and power of good research and quality research that listen to this podcast.

[00:14:30] Gerry Scullion: Um, How do we get to that point where, um, research is a lot more, um, available to businesses and what's holding businesses back? Do you feel, is it a skills-based, um, shortage or is it an appetite or a knowledge-based shortage from, from the organization perspective.

[00:14:47] Karel Vredenburg: I think all of the above actually. Jerry and I think, so I'll go through each of them.

[00:14:51] Karel Vredenburg: One, one of them is skilled based in the sense that education itself for, um, UX researchers, um, and, you [00:15:00] know, uh, Don Norman fact that I mentioned earlier myself, founded this future of design education initiative That's right. That we've been running for the last three years. And that's had a, have a focus on, uh, research education as well, and their challenge with UX research.

[00:15:16] Karel Vredenburg: Information, uh, uh, uh, education is that there are very few schools that specifically train somebody in doing UX research sort of thoroughly. Um, they're typically in I schools or information schools. They get degrees in information. . And while I applaud that those schools exist, and I think that we need to even have way more, uh, education programs for that.

[00:15:38] Karel Vredenburg: And so what, what do we end up doing instead? We hire people from adjacent disciplines, so psychology, ethnography, and anthropology. And the problem there is then you got the foundations of research, but you still don't have the UX research methods particularly either. So, so part of it is that we don't have the, the foundation compare that to a visual designer.

[00:15:59] Karel Vredenburg: You just go to any design [00:16:00] school and you can hire a visual designer. So that's one, one aspect the foundation is missing or, or not as strong as it could be. And the other is the bias that there's a, we just need to design it or, you know, the favorite agile kind of approach of saying, you know, just, uh, fail fast.

[00:16:18] Karel Vredenburg: You know, and often and say, well, you don't have to though. You could actually do some research and actually understand what you're doing before you actually go and build something or design something. So I think there's also a, a, a lack of, um, executive management understanding of the importance of, of research.

[00:16:36] Karel Vredenburg: And I think that's something that we need to address. And that's something at Aion, by the way, we've got a, a new course that we're, we're, we're taking all of our executive team through, uh, called Client Driven Leader. that teaches deeply this is the value of doing a proper, uh, UX research and how it should be informing and, and there's, there's often a bias to Jerry [00:17:00] that, or most people think that when you say UX research, you think about usability testing or you know, a value to research, which is fine.

[00:17:07] Karel Vredenburg: It's got its place. Yeah. You can, you can, you know, modify the design, you know, of, of a product, let's say, or development of it. But if that's all you ever. You're not gonna really change the world. You want to be working on generative research where you're gonna get those unmet needs for the enhancements to a product or even better and an entirely different product.

[00:17:28] Karel Vredenburg: And, and the other thing that my teams have been working a lot on now is even go to market research. You're gonna have the greatest product in the world, but if you don't design the experience Yeah. Of discovering it, learning about it, uh, trying it, and then buying it, you're also not to be success.

[00:17:44] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:17:45] Gerry Scullion: So we know that there's schools out there that is, that are teaching research. Okay. Um, but in order for us to be really successful, we need to go the other way as well and look at the existing people who are out there in the workforce at the moment and [00:18:00] make them aware of the power of research. Mm-hmm.

[00:18:02] Gerry Scullion: So is your philosophy, does it extend to. Upskilling existing employees who are in adjacent fields that could be in marketing into the fields of user experience research. And if so, how do you go about it?

[00:18:15] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. And that's generally referred to as the democratization of research. And I think that that is something that has its value.

[00:18:22] Karel Vredenburg: Uh, and I think, but it also has its dangers, uh, because somebody just thinks, oh, I know how to do this now I can just go do it. And so I generally guide teams to say that. Um, is it great to have designers doing some of the research work or even product managers doing it? Yeah. But under the guidance of somebody that really knows, uh, what they're talking about are really deeply.

[00:18:43] Karel Vredenburg: Leader in ux uh, research. So yeah, I, I think there's a place for it. Um, and, and because many people also are out there, like product managers are out there talking to clients, well, they should be using more effective methods for doing those, uh, uh, conversations though [00:19:00] interviews as well, because you're gonna end up with biased results, you know, if they just come back without having had any kind of appropriate, rigorous method for in doing those interviews.

[00:19:10] Karel Vredenburg: So

[00:19:10] Gerry Scullion: what does a good researcher look like then in your eyes? Um, so, so people can self-identify?

[00:19:16] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. Really good question. I, uh, my sense is that there's a number of people that can actually li uh, lift up to the level that I'm thinking of. But, uh, the kind of people that I'm thinking of, um, somebody that has a, a PhD, for example, in, uh, out, out of one of the, those schools, those high schools, for example.

[00:19:33] Karel Vredenburg: Okay. Because what they have is not only the research methods, but they also have this understanding that it isn't only just academic re research. I mean, it, it has to be practical. It needs to be, yeah. Um, lightweight enough and fast enough, um, and focused enough, um, to be effective in a business context.

[00:19:54] Karel Vredenburg: So balancing rigor. With, um, understanding of [00:20:00] the business now we need to, to, to move, um, is I think an incredibly important skill. And then the other one is really getting to understand the domain area that you're in. Uh, there's so some domain areas that are pretty easy to understand. Other ones, the ones that, that my researchers that IBM are working on when you're working at enterprise kind of software, uh, and hardware.

[00:20:21] Karel Vredenburg: That's tougher. Uh, and so to really be effective, um, you need to understand that technology area as well. And then the third thing is that you need to understand how to work in an overall system in a, in a network of other professionals. And, and my favorite thing, Jerry, is that when you, when people graduate from, uh, From university at whatever level.

[00:20:46] Karel Vredenburg: Uh, and say, say they're graduating from business, they think they're the center of the universe when they get into a product team, cuz they're, they understand the market. They're, they're, and then you have the, you know, the computer science graduate and, well, they code the thing, you know, they're the [00:21:00] most important right.

[00:21:00] Karel Vredenburg: Designers a lot of the time. From the top. Design schools come in and say, well, they're creating the experience. They're the most central one, uh, to this overall operation. An actual fact, as you know, you need all three of 'em. And if they don't, yeah, and more, you know, but unless they really can understand even the language of each other, you know, a lot of the time there's biases in, in the way that those disciplines, you know, bring their skills to a project.

[00:21:24] Karel Vredenburg: So getting rid of the biases and actually understanding the other discipline and what they can contribute, and that stuff just doesn't. in universities. Yeah. You, you, you stay in your lane, you know?

[00:21:35] Gerry Scullion: Absolutely. Yeah. Uh, you don't have that cross-functional kind of learning that's that seedling within university where, where you're working across cross disciplines.

[00:21:45] Gerry Scullion: One of the things that you mentioned there, um, a few minutes ago was the pitfalls of. You know, upskilling people who are not gonna end up being world class researchers. Okay? Mm-hmm. , you talk about the, the, the importance of those [00:22:00] three groups of people being able to work alongside each other is one of the methods.

[00:22:05] Gerry Scullion: Helping those other people who aren't going to be long-term researchers learn about the value of research by doing research courses. Um, is that one of the approaches that you'd feel.

[00:22:15] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah, I think, I think that's part of it. And then you have to do some on, on the job training as well. And, and, and probably, um, uh, shadowing of, of expert.

[00:22:24] Karel Vredenburg: Uh, and I think that even entry level researchers need to go do mentor, be mentored by more experienced researchers. I mean, all you really have to do is sit in with a really. Researcher that's doing a structured interview, for example, you know, a junior level person is gonna be like, well, here's the question and I'm gonna ask, and I'm gonna ask this one next.

[00:22:44] Karel Vredenburg: And like, right, it's like doing podcast interviews, for example, if you, if you probably have the kind of topics that you wanna go through, but a really expert. Uh, uh, podcaster like you are Jerry. You're, you go with the flow, you go with what the person said most recently, and then, [00:23:00] you know, sort of take it from, from there rather than rigorously going through, through sort of a, a set of questions that you are going through, but you still wanna cover certain topic areas and you also want to provide appropriate support for an encouragement for the person that you're, you're, you know, I.

[00:23:15] Karel Vredenburg: Same thing with, with research. So I think that there's a, there's a certain amount of this that you can learn, uh, in like book learning or, or video learning. Yeah. And then the other one is actually doing it experientially. I completely agree.

[00:23:29] Gerry Scullion: One of the things that I see in businesses at the moment, though, Is the, the agile manifest that when it was introduced, they took to it like a duck to water and um mm-hmm.

[00:23:40] Gerry Scullion: most teams will have an agile coach within, you know, several scrums or whatever it is. And one of the, the things that I believe in the next 10 years I'd love to see is design coaches and research coaches to really help. Scale and provide the rigor for those teams to scale. Why is it, do you think [00:24:00] that Agile have been able to do this quite nicely, whereas it seems like the design industry is still lagging behind and businesses are afraid to hire external

[00:24:09] Karel Vredenburg: coaches?

[00:24:10] Karel Vredenburg: Actually, I think that they're. I'm not sure that I agree in, in the sense that when we, when you think about, um, design thinking done right and Dan design thinking has gotten a bad name in many organizations, largely due to the fact that most organizations do it wrong. My estimate is about 80 to 90% of all design thinking is done wrong.

[00:24:30] Karel Vredenburg: Meaning that they don't do. , what we call observe. They don't actually do the research first. And a lot of the time they don't do do any building or making of anything. They're just doing the work, shopping. Right. They're reflecting. Um, I, so I think if, if, but if you do design thinking, right? And our, at ibm we call it enterprise design thinking.

[00:24:49] Karel Vredenburg: We educated like virtually everybody in the company and, and using these methods. It truly was transformational. It was, it was, it was more transformational than agile. What it was [00:25:00] in the sense that, right. I could talk to any executive and ask them in our nomenclature, you know, what's a hill? What are the three hills for your project?

[00:25:08] Karel Vredenburg: Those are the, you know, who's gonna be able to do what with what, what wow experience they're gonna have. Um, or who your sponsor users were. All the terminology. They knew what that that was. So I think we have had that, but it clashed some of the time with Agile and, and Agile, uh, at least has done early on.

[00:25:27] Karel Vredenburg: It was sort of, um, The first stage was largely starting to code, uh, when, and then later on they actually ended up, uh, creating a, a sprint zero, which was a planning sprint. And that's where a lot of the enterprise design thinking work. Yeah, the actual user research work, uh, would happen. So the marrying of those two, um, approaches, Is Nirvana.

[00:25:49] Karel Vredenburg: It really is. And so, yeah, and early on when we, we made sure that we had an agile coach and, and design coach working or, or design thinking coach working together. Uh, [00:26:00] and if you're, you know, any of the planning that you're doing now, it's not just looking at, okay, well, you know, what kind of coding are we gonna be doing in the next, uh, sprint?

[00:26:08] Karel Vredenburg: It. Having to take time for doing the user research work, for example, and doing the, uh, the design mockups and the like, because a lot of the time, you know, pure agile just, you know, discounts the user and discounts Yeah. Design a lot of the time. And so, but marrying the two together I think is the ideal way of proceeding.

[00:26:29] Gerry Scullion: Agile seems to be driven by time and efficiency and going faster and failing faster. Mm-hmm. in many of the businesses that I've coached, whereas the design coaches are, are like the antithesis of that sometimes they want to be able to challenge the time, challenge the efficiencies and say, okay, we need to slow down here.

[00:26:48] Gerry Scullion: But they're, they're so sort of attracted by this, this speed, the need for speed. to quote Top Gun wasn't imagined. I was gonna quote Top Gun in this episode, but the need for speed, [00:27:00] um, seems to be what's, what's kind of a resistance points for, for design adoption for many organizations. Um, How do you think, like in, I know this is a, in three bullet points, can you answer why you think that is, but why do you feel that this is still a problem that we're facing coming into 2023?

[00:27:20] Gerry Scullion: Like it's, you know, the, the we're 15, 20 years in UX is quite mature in many organizations, but yet we're still getting trumped in those conversations.

[00:27:30] Karel Vredenburg: Well, I think it, it depends on what company. So I think, you know, while, while IBM's not perfect, uh, I really think that we've moved the lead needle on it.

[00:27:38] Karel Vredenburg: And I think that, yeah, there's just different per purposes, like you said, but you don't need to be moving slowly necessarily. So, for example, the research work that you do it need and be. Part of the actual sprint schedule. You, you can do like, there's certain, uh, fundamental foundational, uh, UX research work that should be done on its own [00:28:00] schedule.

[00:28:00] Karel Vredenburg: So we say, okay, look, these are all the unmet needs, and oh, we might just, so that need and even be in the overall, you know, sprint. Sort of schedule, but other things when you, when you actually, um, schedule the design, research and development work equally, and that's really the challenge. And you think the, the problem is back to what I was saying earlier about the biases of different disciplines, right?

[00:28:24] Karel Vredenburg: So a lot of the, the Agile work is assuming that everything's all, all about. And coding. Yeah. I said, well, no, if that's your bias, you're not gonna have a great result. If on the other hand, you only did, like I said before, you had the bias. The design is the center of everything or, or research is, you're still not gonna get it.

[00:28:43] Karel Vredenburg: And I think that that the challenges, trying to get people that fundamentally are even wired differently, like designers and coders often are very different people. Right. Um, And like anything else in society, , [00:29:00] um, how do you get people that are very different, one from one another to work one, uh, to together?

[00:29:04] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. We've got that in spades all over the world right now. Right. And so, yeah, I think it's a human, the human condition somewhat. That there's a challenge of trying to get people that are very different, to work very closely together, and that not one of those, in this case, disciplines is. The most powerful, and therefore it's driving, you know, the, the, uh, the approaches that we use to, to, to create products, for example.

[00:29:28] Karel Vredenburg: Okay.

[00:29:29] Gerry Scullion: There's, there's a whole host of areas that could go down in this conversation, and I'm trying to, I'm trying to keep a, a pretty linear path in some ways. You mentioned there are way back there about the, the work that yourself and John Norm have been doing around the future of design education. Um, research, as you're seeing is, is one of the, the key pieces that have come out of that work.

[00:29:50] Gerry Scullion: What, tell us a little bit more around the, the output or the outcome of the three years of the future design education. Um, were, were there other things that went [00:30:00] alongside the research

[00:30:00] Karel Vredenburg: need? Mm-hmm. . Oh, yeah. And, and there's way, way, way more than, uh, just the research, uh, work. Yeah. Okay. We basically identified, um, Well, we started off with Don and I creating a, a steering committee of experts.

[00:30:15] Karel Vredenburg: Half of them were gonna be in, in industry or practice as we called it. The other ones in academia. That in is in itself is interesting, , to have people working that closely, uh, together. Cause a lot of the time that doesn't happen. And then we, um, asked for volunteers and we got some 700 people volunteer to help with this project.

[00:30:32] Karel Vredenburg: And then we created, um, working groups on particular themes. So we had a, a working group on sustainability. We had group, uh, uh, uh, a working group on design and service develop, uh, uh, uh, uh, design, uh, and um, All of these different work groups. Um, again, we tried to make each of them half being practice, half being, uh, uh, industry, I mean, uh, half being, uh, practice, half, uh, being, uh, academia.

[00:30:59] Karel Vredenburg: [00:31:00] Mm-hmm. . And they then, you know, worked and hopped and, and were really looking at kind of what the future of design education, what, what it should really look like. And then, and, and the, the challenge we had, um, we were talking about this a. Prior to, uh, recording that the, uh, project actually started right around the time, almost exactly the time, uh, time that the pandemic started.

[00:31:25] Karel Vredenburg: And so our first face-to-face meeting was actually canceled, uh, because it was right at the beginning of the pandemic. And I think that had some impact, uh, in terms of us really. Working and having all those groups work well with one another. They all worked inside their own work group. Um, and there were a few of us, Meredith Davis, who's amazing.

[00:31:43] Karel Vredenburg: She's now the, um, the person that's pulling together all this stuff for publication. Um, and. I think what, what, what, so what we did was we had I think a total of seven, um, uh, different working groups and they are [00:32:00] all now, um, writing their recommendations in the form of a journal article for a special issue of the, um, SEI journal.

[00:32:09] Karel Vredenburg: And so that ought to be coming. In, uh, I think maybe the first or second quarter of next year. Uh, and Don and I also just wrote a final kind of summary, big picture view of where the field is going, where education's going, and that sort of thing as well.

[00:32:25] Gerry Scullion: Okay. Are you okay to talk to us a little bit more around where you think the industry is going and where the future of design education is going?

[00:32:32] Gerry Scullion: Cause I know there's definitely some, uh, the people from SCD have HadCad on recently as well, and we were talking a bit more around this as well. I'd love to get your thoughts on where, where you think things are going.

[00:32:43] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah, from the education side, it, I think it's interesting that we have, um, disruptors in education that a lot of the traditional schools aren't seeing as a disruption in design, and that is the boot camps.

[00:32:55] Karel Vredenburg: And so general s all say again? Yeah. Like [00:33:00] general assembly? Yes, exactly. Is that what you mean by probably. Exactly. Most, and they're non-degree programs, BA basically, or, or alternate education. Mm-hmm. . And, you know, some of them are, I think, inappropriately advertising themselves as you can either take a four, a four year degree or you can, you know, be with us for a couple of months and you get the same thing, which, you know, uh, clearly that isn't the case.

[00:33:22] Karel Vredenburg: But yeah. It's also the case that, so we've hired a bunch of people from, uh, general assembly actually. Um, but the most, most effective, all of them, cuz a lot of the time they're not as, uh, proficient in the craft side of design. Mm. Uh, or research. But they, ty typically have a, a degree or two, uh, in a another discipline and typically have done work.

[00:33:46] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. Uh, as well. So they come to, you know, when we hire them, they come with a whole package of all kinds of things that an undergraduate, uh, just straight out of, you know, uh, a design school, you know, doesn't, doesn't [00:34:00] have, but, but, Do, do those programs teach you everything you need to know? Well, no, you can't do it quite in that amount of time, but I think there's some characteristics of what those programs do that the other, the university programs and the design schools really should take to heart, which is the sort of direct relevance, uh, of, of working on sort of real, uh, problems.

[00:34:22] Karel Vredenburg: And, and of course the instructors there are typically adjunct, uh, uh, uh, professors and, and instructors that are doing day to. You know, work today in, in an industry. Um, but they are also, uh, really flexible in terms of their curriculum, so that each time they teach a course, they're, they're gonna, you know, modify it, but they don't have, you know, major, you know, curriculum committees to have to, you know, get approval from Yeah.

[00:34:49] Karel Vredenburg: To make a change in a, in a curriculum, uh, every five years, whether you need it or not, sort of thing. You know, I'm being a little unfair, but I, I think. , there's just a real sense of, of [00:35:00] flexibility and making things relevant that I think is, is appropriate. You know, there, I think that universities have a huge opportunity to actually get rid of, and Don and I talk about that in our, uh, piece.

[00:35:14] Karel Vredenburg: Get rid of this hard line between disciplines, uh, and the different schools. And a university. If you actually, I, I always argue that as a minimum. Every university should have a program like a capstone, uh, course where, um, you have students from business, design, engineering, whatever other, uh, uh, disciplines may be relevant.

[00:35:38] Karel Vredenburg: Um, working together, you know, getting rid of those biases. All the things I said earlier. Yeah. And working on wheel problems a lot of the time in design schools, you know, students get to do, you know, a capstone type project, but it's whatever they wanna choose, choose to do. And it might be, you know, improving, um, the, the, the gardening in the backyard or something.

[00:35:57] Karel Vredenburg: It could be anything at all. Right? But, and then they [00:36:00] come to a company like ours and it's like, oh my, These are like really hard problems to solve. Well, you should have also gotten that in, in, in university. So university where I see it going is, well, I don't see that it going, that where I think it sh should go is actually, uh, to.

[00:36:16] Karel Vredenburg: Do the very thing that that companies need to do. They, they, and that is that every discipline needs to, in the, we as we talked about earlier, needs to work really effectively together. Um, and while they may be in different, you know, units like I, I have all the, the researchers in mind, but. They can't just on only work in my unit.

[00:36:33] Karel Vredenburg: They have to be working, you know, every single day. And they do with all the other disciplines. Same thing for the, you know, disciplines and, and the, the faculties basically in a university. I think they need to be encouraging way more of that. I, I always argue that it's, it's surprising that students often only have encountered somebody from another discipline, you know, at a, at a university party, you know, and, and they.

[00:36:57] Karel Vredenburg: In their education, they, they may not have gotten that at all. I [00:37:00] think that's critical to address. Absolutely.

[00:37:03] Gerry Scullion: O one of the other podcasts that I run on this is City is getting started in design. Mm-hmm. . And we, I seem to have encountered an awful lot of students over the last decade that have a bumpy exit out of academia and mm-hmm , this sort of transition into full-time employment is quite difficult.

[00:37:22] Gerry Scullion: Um, and there seems to be this transitionary period. It's quite volatile and quite traumatizing for an awful lot of people when they're trying to find that job. And all of the recent guests that Aaron recently just said that they were trying to learn as many skills as possible in the hope that somebody would just take a chance on them.

[00:37:39] Gerry Scullion: Where do you see the role of academia extending to to age? The, the kind of the start of a career in design, because it seems when you look at other industries like accounting mm-hmm. , there's a, there's an intake in the big four and they take these people in and they, they get started, they get these [00:38:00] opportunities.

[00:38:00] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. , we don't have that in design and it's, we, we, we run the risk of educating these people brilliantly, but we don't have industry there to really welcome them with open arms. And if we do, they tend to be mistreat.

[00:38:14] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. Another great question, Jerry. And I think that, I think it's a shared responsibility, quite frankly.

[00:38:19] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. Between industry and education. Um, when we started our design program reboot from 10 years ago, we determined that, uh, the people that we were hiring, Uh, didn't have the right skills, and so we actually created a, a bootcamp of our own. It's a three month bootcamp. Wow. And I was quoted in the press as calling that the missing semester of design school and of university that that's how I, yeah.

[00:38:42] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. I, I now teach, by the way, as well, I'm an industry professor. Yeah. But that. The early discussions were as a result of saying, you know, universities weren't up to snuff yet. So we, we did, and we hired some, uh, people from other schools. Uh, Scott included , uh, in [00:39:00] terms of the, to teach that program. But that was way too much, uh, uh, you know, three, three months to have to invest.

[00:39:08] Karel Vredenburg: Um, More of that needs to be done in the university? No, I, I think that there could well be, and I've seen some really good examples of this, where, where it's a shared responsibility that, um, Where even when, when somebody's coming to, to do like an internship, um, that it isn't like you're entirely now in, in, in, in a, uh, in a company doing your, your internship.

[00:39:31] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah. That, that there may be educational opportunities still. Where, where, where it's, where it's a leader in, in the business and also the, uh, a leader in, in the university getting together and actually reflecting on what people have learned and that sort of thing. I think it's also the case that. Doing more of that shared sort of education also gives students the opportunity to realize whether they really wanna do this or not.

[00:39:55] Karel Vredenburg: You know, as opposed to now they graduated, now they gotta like to, to a point that you were making. Now they [00:40:00] gotta find somewhere to, to land. If they have a really. Interesting set of diverse experiences in terms of, of internships, and I don't mean just a really quick internship, I mean something where you could really spend some serious, some serious time and really going in depth.

[00:40:17] Karel Vredenburg: I think that would solve it for both. The company would understand better, uh, where the, yeah. Where the student's at, and the student could also have a better idea of what the company's all about or what this even this, this business is all about. I mean, I've had some people recently, somebody just reached out to me on LinkedIn and said that, uh, he in my class, Uh, in 2017 and he said, you know what?

[00:40:41] Karel Vredenburg: I just was so thrilled, uh, uh, to learn, uh, about design that he switched from. It was one of these multidisciplinary, I did a, uh, a pan university course, like anybody from any discipline could come in nice and into my class. And, uh, he was like, he switched now from, from finance to to, to design. But you could do that.

[00:40:59] Karel Vredenburg: If, if [00:41:00] design isn't your thing, you could also switch as well. But I think right now we just hang out with only designers in design school only, you know, uh, uh, yeah, developers and, and, and, and computer science. And we don't give students enough of an opportunity to traverse, you know, uh, different disciplines as well.

[00:41:21] Gerry Scullion: Carl, I know we're coming towards the end of this episode, and. Like for one, I'm, I can't wait to get my hands on that, that report. Okay. Is there, I know you mentioned it's gonna be in, uh, Shaz Magazine, I think, or the Journal. Mm-hmm. , um, it's gonna be published

[00:41:36] Karel Vredenburg: online. Yeah, and you can also go to, uh, the future of, of, uh, uh, design education dot uh, dot org is the, um, yeah, uh, is the website fu future of design

[00:41:49] Karel Vredenburg: Uh, you can also go to my own, uh, my own Uh, and I'll, I'll update there as well. But we're, we haven't updated the website, um, [00:42:00] the future of Design Education one much recently cuz we've been focused on this public. , but we also intend to actually publish it. Very, I know the website though, it's

[00:42:07] Gerry Scullion: black and white.

[00:42:08] Gerry Scullion: I remember seeing it when it was launched. Yes, that's, I was, that's right. I was watching it like, you know. Um, and lastly, I know there's probably listeners who listen to your own podcast, life Habits mm-hmm. . Um, tell us a little bit about where that's at. And I know you mentioned there at the start, you're gonna start podcasting again.

[00:42:23] Karel Vredenburg: Yeah, I, uh, actually started it, um, when I was doing a lot of mentoring at work, uh, and thought, okay, well, Some of the time I'm telling the same stories, , and it's like, well, why don't I record the things that I, I say more frequently, and then I can customize what it is that I'm doing in terms of a, a mentoring relationship with a particular person.

[00:42:43] Karel Vredenburg: So I, I created it inside the company, and then somebody like, why don't you go put this thing. At the time, it's, it's like 12 years ago. Yeah. When, why don't you put it on iTunes? And iTunes were just starting with podcasts and said, okay, well yeah, we'll put it there. And it, it quickly climbed to number one in, in, uh, self-help and [00:43:00] thought, okay, this is kind of fun.

[00:43:01] Karel Vredenburg: And so it was, this is cool. So it's basically anything that is related to kind of optimizing yourself, uh, in terms of, you know, broadly nice. Um, It's, it's, it's a, uh, I've got everything topics from, you know, effect effective public speaking, uh, dealing with difficult people, um, how to inject, uh, design and research methods in improving your own life.

[00:43:28] Karel Vredenburg: Um, wow. A, a variety of, of topics, you know, like that. And so, and. I haven't done an episode, uh, the last little while, but there's been a whole lot of interest in me doing . Another one. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I think over the, uh, over the holidays I'm gonna be, uh, starting my, uh, episodes again. And if anybody has any suggestions, Reach out and, uh, yeah, definitely.

[00:43:49] Karel Vredenburg: I

[00:43:49] Gerry Scullion: I've list over the years as well. Um, and I know you, you're, you're big into veganism as well. Yes. Do you wanna give a shout out to your other, I know you've got a website. I, I found out my notes somewhere. Um, [00:44:00] I, I want to vegan or I can vegan tell us what be Yeah.

[00:44:03] Karel Vredenburg: Actually, Yeah, I , uh, I could never go is one, and I could go vegan.

[00:44:09] Karel Vredenburg: It's the same website. So both <LAUGH> URLs take you to the same site. . Uh, but I'm actually, so that's my own personal site. I would also suggest, I, I'm, I'm the, uh, the vice President of the board of directors for a Veg T, which is basically, uh, for Toronto. That's where I'm based. Um, okay. A, a vegan organization there.

[00:44:29] Karel Vredenburg: And that's, that's a pretty cool website, you know, a as. Which is veg veg ca.

[00:44:35] Gerry Scullion: Okay, excellent. I I'll put a link to both of those. Um, cool. Both perspectives of, of veganism, uh, in the show notes for this, as well as your Life Habits podcast as well. Cause it's, it's an excellent resource. But look, Carl, I always end my episodes with thanking the, the guests for their time and their energy and their openness and their honesty for, for giving me the, the time to have this conversation.

[00:44:56] Gerry Scullion: I know everyone listening will be really appreciative of your time. So, so thank you [00:45:00] so much for the

[00:45:00] Karel Vredenburg: bottom of. And Jerry, thank you. And, uh, being a fellow podcaster, I appreciate somebody that can do a really good interview and you are a star, so thank you Jerry .

[00:45:11] Gerry Scullion: Thank you so much. That's so nice coming for you.

[00:45:13] Gerry Scullion: Thank you.

[00:45:17] Gerry Scullion: There you go folks. I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you enjoyed it and want to listen to more, why not visit? This is h where you can learn more about what we are up to and also explore our courses while through there. Thanks again for listening.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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